Originally released on PlayStation Vita in April last year before being ported to the WiiU, iOS and 3DS, Drinkbox Studios’ first-person dungeon crawler Severed has found a new home on the Nintendo Switch.
If you’ve never heard of it before, let me briefly fill you in. Severed places you in the shoes of a one-armed swordswoman called Sasha, who awakes to find herself in a strange and mysterious world. Discovering that her family is missing, she accepts a peculiar living sword from an ominous stranger before heading out to find them, no matter what the cost.
Seeing the whole game through Sasha’s eyes, you quickly become immersed as you discover and explore labyrinthine structures and dungeons, sometimes travelling through outdoor environments that connect them. There’s some light puzzling to be done – manipulating switches of various kinds to open doors, navigating portals etc. – but Severed‘s gameplay is mainly focused around its unique combat system.
Requiring you to slash at your opponents by swiping your fingers across the screen, Severed is the second Switch game that can only be played in handheld mode. Combat is instigated by walking into strange fire-like markers that sit motionless in the game’s world; the enemies you’re about to do battle with introduced to you upon making contact. While all the enemies involved in a battle pose a constant threat, however, you’ll only ever see one of them on the screen at a time.
Short and long slashes are your main forms of attack, carefully directed at enemies’ squishy bits as hitting them anywhere else is woefully ineffective. But you’ll need to keep an eye on each enemy’s status indicator at the bottom of the screen to anticipate their attacks, frequently switching between them to counter and prevent their blows. With multiple enemy types, each with their own attack patterns, battles soon become frenzied, but always remain fun despite you having to perform a juggling act.
As the game progresses, combat becomes a little more complicated due to the introduction of rocky growths that protect enemies’ weak spots. A charged attack, one of the few additional abilities you gain on your adventure, is the only way to negate such nefarious defences, and may also be used to land an extra powerful blow on an enemy’s weak spot. Eventually then, your combat options are expanded a little allow for more strategy, but you’re never overwhelmed by an abundance of skills that you’ll never use.
One of Severed‘s most curious features is the necessity to sever defeated foes’ body parts in order to develop Sasha’s abilities, but to do so you first need to fill a focus bar in battle. Repeatedly attacking enemies without being hit or having one of your attacks deflected is the way to do it, and once it’s full you’ll be given a small window of opportunity upon defeating an enemy to slice off any useful parts they may have. There are numerous skill trees in which your acquired parts can be used, allowing you to pick and choose what you deem to be a priority.
The Switch version of Severed has no additional content to speak of, though a couple of new features have been added. Firstly, there’s the option to play on casual difficulty, which is a great addition as the original game got quite tough eventually. Also, you can now turn left and right with the right analogue stick, making the game easier to control.
With the inclusion of a difficulty setting, perhaps Severed‘s only real let-down is that it doesn’t push the boat in the audio department. The music, while atmospheric, is very repetitive, and sound effects are a bit dull. Oh, and there’s no voice acting, just text boxes. All things considered, however, these are minor blemishes on what is otherwise a wonderfully put together experience.
I’m not going to beat around the bush; the Switch version of Severed is easily the best yet. Being touch based, the Switch’s responsive and gloriously large screen means that the gameplay shines brighter than ever before. Severed‘s unique, almost papercraft-like art style is really showcased on the Switch too, bringing its haunting world to life. It may not have much in the way of additional bells and whistles, but it’s an accomplished port and the couple of features that have been added make it more accessible. For Switch owners looking for a interesting adventure they can play on the move, Severed is absolutely essential.